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ANFIELD - A History

Liverpool Football Club has played its home games at Anfield Road since their birth as a club in 1892.

The story of the ground stems from the growth of football in the city back in 1878.  The then named St.Domingo's team played its games in Stanley Park.  The games though were played on a pitch where anyone could turn up and watch.  As more people started to watch the games a decision was taken to move on and find a ground whereby the club could charge an entrance fee.

A member of the team, by now renamed Everton, called Cruitt made an offer of a field next to the current Stanley Park pitch.  Cruitt it was who owned the field and a suitable area was built on for dressing rooms and a stand.  As time wen by crowds began to increase at such a rate the Cruitt reconsidered his offer and the team were to become homeless again.

By 1884 when the club lost use of the field offered by Cruitt they were facing the prospect of returning to play its football on Stanley Park.  However, the club's chairman John Houlding had a chat with his brewing friend John Orrell and as a result an enclosed field on Anfield Road was suggested as housing the team.  Members of the club, based in the Sandon pub nearby helped to make the ground more suitable for football by putting fences around the pitch and a stand was built.  Orrell did specify some conditions to the use of the ground though which were to later cause Everton to leave.  The conditions included not annoying Orrell during play, keeping the surrounding walls in good condition and of course paying rent.

The first ever game played on the Anfield pitch saw Everton beat Earlestown 5-0 in 1884.  By 1886 crowds had started to increase so much that Houlding decided it was a good idea to build a new stand.  At the cost of some £64, local builder George Rutherford built the stand on the Kemlyn Road side of the ground.  A covered stand was built on the opposite side of the ground.  More groundwork continued towards the end of the 1880's with two stands built behind each goal.  The ground was now one of the best in the country and even housed an England international game.

It was in 1892 though that the major development in terms of a team occurred.  Following an increase in the rent for the ground, Everton decided to up sticks and find a new ground which they have now stuck with across Stanley Park at Goodison.  They will soon leave here for a new home.  John Houlding was now left with a ground capable of housing many fans but no team to play in it.  In May 1892 Liverpool Association Football Club was formed and a team was now available to play at Anfield once again.  The ground did require much work to it however when they came to playing their first games.  After the rent dispute many Everton members removed the fittings of the ground such as the turnstiles.

On 23rd September 1892 Liverpool FC played their first competitive match at Anfield.  They faced local side Higher Walton and ran out winners on the day 8-0 in front of some 200 fans.  In the first days of Liverpool playing at Anfield the Sandon pub was the dressing room for the Liverpool team.  They then had to walk down the road to the pitch and play before returning along the road to the dressing rooms.

In 1894 following some early success the club decided to build a proper main stand which would incorporate dressing rooms.  The stand was built and cost a total of £1,000.  The stand was made of timber and remained relatively unmodified until the 1970's when it was to become as it is in modern times.  The stand was at the time considered extremely good for the football ground.  In the middle of the stand roof was a mock semi-circular gable in red and white.  A large plaque was later place on this area reading 'Liverpool Football Club'.  Today though the only thing left of it are photographs as the original itself was lost in development of the stand.  It is likely to have been placed in a builders skip.

The stand at the Walton Breck Road was also extended at the time of the main stand development and two years later a stand was built on Anfield Road itself.  The stand contained a standing area for fans and was made in similar style to the main stand.  The stand was built rather low so as to not affect the general view in the area.

In 1906 the ground underwent its next transformation which was to become legendary across the world. John Houlding and club secretary John McKenna decided after the clubs second championship win that the fans deserved a better enclosure behind the goal at the Walton Breck Road end.  Archibald Leitch was brought in to design the layout of the new ground.  

The Kop stand was built upon a huge bank of ash and rubble.  Crush barriers were built on to the steps of the embankment and the now legendary Kop was born.  The new stand at that end though was not the only improvement at the time.  The pitch was raised up slightly and a paddock was introduced around it.  The new stand however was the main development and it was later named the Spion Kop by local newspaper writer Ernest Edwards.  This was after the battle of the Speonkop hill during the boer war in 1900.  Many local soldiers died in the failed battle to secure the hill.  The new design to the ground meant that the club could now host some 60,000 fans.

In 1921 the ground was considered so good that one of that years FA Cup semi finals was played there between Wolves and Cardiff.  It wasn't the first time such a semi-final had been played there but what made this one significant was for the attendance of King George V and Queen Mary.

In 1928 came a great engineering feat when the Spion Kop was covered.  It became the largest covered terrace in the country as a result.  The roof was supported by a series of stantions across the terrace but not too many so as to obscure many views which is what made the engineering feat all the better.  At this point in time both the main stand and Kemlyn Road stand were made longer so as to reach up to the Kop stand.  The Kop was officially opened by John McKenna on 25th August 1928.

There was one last building feat to take place in 1928.  The addition of a flagpole for the club was erected at the corner of the Kop and Kemlyn Road stands.  It is today known to many as flagpole corner.  The flagpole also has a history to it.  The pole is made up of the mast from one of the first ever iron ships called the Great Eastern.  The ship first set sail in 1860 but some twenty years later had been abandoned to rot across the mersey at Rock Ferry.  The mast which had survived was bought by the club and was taken across the mersey to Liverpool before being hauled up Everton Valley by horses.

The Anfield ground then stayed pretty much untroubled for thirty years except for minor repairs.  In 1957 the reds installed floodlights at a cost of some £12,000.  They were first used in a Floodlight Challenge trophy game with Everton on 30 October 1957.  The reds incidentally also played a similar match at Goodison to coincide with their floodlight introduction.

With the Anfield ground not changing much over thirty years parts of it were beginning to go stale and conditions for all were not the greatest.  This all changed when the great Bill Shankly arrived in 1959.  He was livid at the conditions and said that the ground was not good enough for the fans who supported them each week.  After his reign began, the reds started to improve Anfield and after promotion was gained in 1961-62 season the Kemlyn Road stand was demolished.  A huge new cantilever stand was built in its place at the cost of some £350,000.  The one big issue that was not resolved at this time was the sunlight allowed through to the houses on Kemlyn Road and as a result the roof sloped towards the pitch rather than upwards.

The next upgrade to the ground was at the Anfield Road end of the ground.  At the end of the 1964-65 season the stand was removed and a huge brick terrace was installed instead.  Finally it was the main stand that was to be developed but this didn't take place until th seventies.  The main stand was expanded rather than demolished altogether to include seats and better facilities for the players and also the inclusion of a proper TV gantry.  The stand was officially opened in March 1973.  The new stand also saw the loss of the four floodlights in the corners of the ground.  Instead the ground was lit up by a series of floodlights along the main stand and Kemlyn Road stand.  Today there are 163 floodlights in the ground giving superb light for the players to play under.

The next main additions to the ground were seats.  The paddock in the front of the main stand was converted to seats in 1980 whilst in 1982 the Anfield road end was altered to accommodate seats.  Undersoil heating was introduced at this point too.  1982 was to prove a changing year for the ground on the outside too as the Shankly gates were unveiled.  Bill Shankly's wife Nessie unlocked the superb set of gates for the first time on 26 August 1982.  Sadly they were not erected before his death.

In 1985 the Heysel tragedy claimed 39 Juventus fans' lives and a change was brought about to football.  Anfield changed two years later with a more 'at-home' ground made.  The Kemlyn Road stand was given a fresh look with coloured seats and a police-room was built.  In 1989 after the Hillsborough disaster the Taylor Report stated the all grounds in the country would be all-seater.  This recommendation in itself led to the demolishing of the most famous stand in the game - the Kop.

The last set of major changes that have taken place have all occurred in the nineties.  The Kemlyn road stand was finally demolished and re-built as a huge double decker cantilever stand.  The plans to build the stand had been made much earlier but two old ladies living in Kemlyn Road refused to move out of their house and the plans were put on hold.  When one of the old ladies died the other finally moved out and the plans were put into action.  The stand was officially opened on 1st September 1992 by Lennart Johansson and named the Centenary stand.  The stand includes executive boxes and function suites as well as some 11,000 seats.

The Kop was rebuilt in 1994 after the Taylor report and became all seated.  It was the end of an era for Anfield although in the circumstances a move that had to be made.  Today the Kop holds just over 13,000 seated fans and can on occasions produce a similar noise to that of years ago.  It may never be the same again but the legend lives on.

The last change to the Anfield stadium came in 1998 when the new two-tier Anfield Road end was opened.  Original plans for a huge double decker stand were forced to be scaled down.  The stand that was built was not as high as planned and was, like the centenary stand a long cantilever one.  It is not the only problem though that the stand has encountered and at the beginning of the 2000 season a series of poles had to be brought in to give extra stability to the top tier of the stand.  During Ronnie Morans testimonial against Celtic many fans complained of movement of the top tier.  Investigations found that the frequency of the construction wasn't high enough and the stantions were inserted.  At the same time that these were inserted the executive seating area was increased down a couple of rows in the main stand to the detriment of the fans in the paddock.

Today though the club are pushing ahead with their plans for a new ground across the Road on Stanley Park. The new ground will be bigger and has achieved planning permission.

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